A near-Earth asteroid discovered just a few days ago has topped two lists of the most dangerous objects for Earth, most likely temporarily. The celestial body labeled 2022 AE1 is therefore considered by both NASA and ESA to be more dangerous than the asteroid Bennu, which previously held this top position.
But that could change again as more observations gather more accurate data about the asteroid’s orbit—which is usually what happens in such cases. 2022 AE1 was discovered on January 6th and is about 70 meters in diameter. That would be slightly larger than the asteroid blamed for a violent explosion in Siberia in 1908 – the so-called Tunguska event.
Potential impact as early as 2023?
Based on the few data known to date, NASA and EASA have calculated two dates when the asteroid will come so close to Earth that a collision cannot yet be completely ruled out: July 4, 2023 and July 3, 2028. The US Space Agency will come one currently has a probability of 0.036 percent for the date next summer, with the ESA it is 0.15 percent. An impact in the summer of 2028 is therefore even more unlikely.
While there are other objects whose impact probability is considered higher or larger than 2022 AU1, the newly discovered asteroid lands on NASA’s lists and ESA at the forefront, because they are sorted according to the so-called Palermo scale. The value also includes how much time is left to the potential impact – at 2022 AU1 it’s only a year and a half.
As soon as more precise data on the orbit of 2022 AE1 experience shows that it will lose its top position on the danger lists. Then Bennu should advance again, one of the most dangerous asteroids we know. From the second half of the 22nd century it comes so close to the earth over 150 times that the overall impact probability is 0.057 percent.
In order to be able to calculate such dangers more precisely, NASA introduced new software just a few weeks ago. Sentry-II monitors potentially dangerous celestial bodies for the US Space Agency’s Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS). What would be done if an imminently dangerous asteroid was actually discovered a few months before an impact was actually carried out during an exercise last year.